July 27, 2013

The Lord’s Prayer As The New Covenant of Jesus (Proper 17)

Jesus teaching on prayer (Luke 11.1-13) is at the heart of our Faith. It is first of all an ideal model or outline for personal and corporate prayer. It can be prayed as is - or expanded on with more specific local petitions. The Prayer is in the form of a covenant. Covenants – such as the Ten Commandments of Moses define who is included and what each party is to do to remain in covenant. This Covenant does not replace, but adds to the Covenant of Moses. This makes the Lord’s Prayer a central teaching on Christian Faith. It is this New Covenant of Jesus that Christians pray and renew as the high point of the Holy Communion Service.

In summary Christian believers covenant (agree) to:
·         Acknowledge the supreme authority of God as their spiritual father
·         Pledge love, loyalty and  respect for the name and character of God
·         Commit to working for the coming of God’s spiritual Kingdom on Earth

In return Christians ask God to covenant to:
·         Give them bread – the daily necessities of life
·         Give them forgiveness – reconciliation with God who is holy
·         Give them spiritual protection – guidance and strengthening in the spiritual testing of life

1. “Our Father in heaven”
This phrase defines who is included in the Covenant and the relationship with God that they desire. We desire to have God as our spiritual father, in the same way as Jesus did. This is a very close, intimate – and exclusive relationship. “Our Father” is the prayer of a believing community.
·         God is our father in the sense that God is behind all creation
·         Creation gives us freedom to acknowledge or reject God as father
·         “In heaven” identifies God as the spiritual father we have accepted

2. “hallowed be your name”
In the Bible the name given to a person is intended to define their character. The Hosea Reading (1.2-10) is an example of this. Hosea is reminding the people that they have prostituted themselves and failed to respect the “holy’ name of God. Since holiness is the dominant characteristic of God we pledge
·         Our love, loyalty and respect to the holiness of God.
·         To ‘reverence’ – greatly respect God in everything  we do and say

3. “your kingdom come, your will be done”
The whole Bible is about God creating and intervening in the world to extend His heavenly kingdom into the physical world. The Colossians Reading (2.6-15) reminds us there is rebellion and opposition from people deceived by both human pride and spiritual “powers and authorities” of darkness that were defeated but not silenced by the Cross.
·         Christians pray for the coming of God’s spiritual kingdom more fully into the world – this work is our mission as a church
·         Kingdom comes as we tell more people the Good News and they believe and turn to Jesus and following Him as Saviour and Lord

4. “Give us each day our daily bread”
·         We acknowledge our dependence on God for everything – not alone
·         Breaks pride that separates us from God, hinders relationship of love

5. “Forgive us our sins as we forgive”
God is holy and cannot be in the presence of un-holiness. We need to repent, confess and accept forgiveness for our sins in order to move closer to God and have the Holy Spirit live in us.
·         Un-forgiveness is a sin so we must first forgive others
·         Forgiveness is at the heart of the Covenant of Jesus

6. “lead us not into temptation, (but deliver us from the evil one)”
It is hard to understand why a good and loving God would ‘lead’ us into something potentially destructive. Tertullian, Cyprian and Augustine all proposed “Do not allow us to be led into temptation”.
·         Balances our need for spiritual protection with our need for testing and temptations - to prove and strengthen our Faith and love.
·         Job 1 explains the sovereignty of God over Satan in tempting us

 This is a truly awesome prayer in the form of a truly awesome covenant. We need to study it and reflect on it carefully as one of the centerpieces of our Faith and worship.

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